Spin a globe to find the region from which the next big food trend will emerge, then stop when you get to Southeast Asia. As the consumer global palette develops, there’s an opportunity for chefs to experiment with dishes and ingredients from this region. While Thai and Vietnamese cuisine are established menu mainstays, other parts of the region are gaining culinary ground. Here are two cuisines you’re likely to be hearing more about in the future.
Filipino flavor: from adobo to ube
Foods from the 7,000 island-nation of the Philippines include both indigenous dishes and newer entrees reflecting Indian, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish influences. Fueled by a breakout ingredient – the bright-purple ube yam– it’s a cuisine that’s suddenly in the spotlight. This popularity is supported by Filipino-themed fine-dining concepts such as Qui (Austin), Milkfish (New Orleans) and Purple Yam (Brooklyn).
Filipino food is typically spicy, sour and pungent, which appeals to current trends for intensely flavored eating experiences. A familiar entry point might be a dish like Chicken Adobo (see recipe below). The adobo cooking process, a mainstay of Filipino cuisine, stews ingredients with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorn.
Hmong cuisine adapts and inspires
You can’t find “Hmong-land” on a map, because it doesn’t exist. And in that sentence, you’ve learned something important about the nomadic Hmong people, who traditionally lived in mountainous regions throughout Southeast Asia. They assisted American troops during the Vietnam War, then fled Communist regimes as refugees. Keeping in the nomadic tradition of his people is Hmong-American chef Yia Vang, who has no permanent restaurant location and instead conducts regular pop-ups throughout the Twin Cities.
“Hmong is not a type of food, it’s a philosophy and way of thinking about food,” Vang says. “What makes our food different is the story we tell with our dishes, the way every dish has a narrative.” One common dish is stewed pork bones with mustard greens. “In the homeland, you had scrap bones and greens, so you threw it all in a pot and the bones flavored the sauce.” It’s food that’s meant to be shared, which is a key tenet of the cuisine, Vang says. “My dad always says that brothers will share even a grain of rice.”
Hmong are master adapters to the culture in which they’re living and eating, Vang says, and that’s nowhere more evident than in his signature Minnesota Hmong Hotdish, made with Northern Thai Curry Sauce and Braised Pork Belly and topped with the Midwestern favorite, Tator Tots. “I like to play with the idea of something familiar, pay homage, and put a Hmong twist on it.”
Andrew Zimmern predicted the rise of Filipino cuisine, and now it’s happening, says The Washington Post
Heavy Table’s profile of Yia Vang
Union Kitchen’s Hmong recipes
Washington Post Filipino recipes
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